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Morning Song – Gratitude

There are many ways to get your praise on and say “thank-you”.  There aren’t many funkier than with Earth Wind & Fire’s “Gratitude”.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The New Obama? No, The Same Old Obama

AliForemanCongressional Republicans have apparently decided that a (previously) bipartisan package of tax breaks making its way through the lame-duck session will be the (first?) vehicle for venting their rage at President Obama’s immigration actions.  They’ve cut two top Democratic priorities—a child tax credit and an expanded earned-income tax credit—from the bill.  In response, President Obama has threatened to veto the proposed legislation.

Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum observes, “This is all part of the new Obama we’ve seen since the midterm election, which seems to have had an oddly liberating effect on him… It’s as though he’s tired of their endless threats to go nuclear over every little thing and just doesn’t care anymore. Go ahead, he’s telling them. Make my day.

Old-timers in the Politics Division here at MassCommons World Headquarters have been passionate admirers of Drum’s blogging since his Calpundit days, but the view here is that we’re not seeing a “new Obama”.  Rather, we’re seeing the same old Obama who’s been a major national political figure since his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, and who’s never been secretive about what he thinks his greatest political strengths are:

This is why actually, if you watch my political interactions, I am always best as a counterpuncher.  You know, if somebody comes at me, I will knock them out.  If not, then I will try to understand their point of view; and that actually serves me well. 

I give people the benefit of the doubt.  I try to understand their point of view.  If I perceive that they’ve tried to take advantage of that, then I will (…pause…) crush them. (disarming smile and general laughter)

Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of those remarks.  They remain about as good an insight as there is into how Barack Obama thinks of himself—and operates—as a political figure.

With large Republican majorities in the next Congress, he’ll have lots of punches to counter.  And nothing that’s happened in the last seven years suggests he’s any less confident in his abilities to do so than he was as a junior senator trudging around to small-town newspaper editorial board meetings, running an uphill race for president against the most popular family name in contemporary Democratic party politics.

Morning Song – Wagon Wheel

A longtime reader suggests Darius Rucker’s cover of “Wagon Wheel” (a song that’s basically Big Bill Broonzy by way of Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, Bob Dylan and Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor) for the busiest travel day of the year:

…Because when this plays in college dining halls this week, half the room (at least) will be singing along. Because it’s not a song about North Carolina; it’s a song about going home, wherever home is. Because somehow, “rock me mama anyway you feel” translates to “we’re almost done; we’ll be home soon.”

h/t: NMH

Barack Obama Is Who He Said He Is

When Barack Obama calls himself a counterpuncher, this is who he has in mind. #MuhammadAli

When Barack Obama calls himself a counterpuncher, this is who he has in mind. #MuhammadAli

In the wake of their resounding victory at the polls three weeks ago today, conservatives could be forgiven for expecting a chastened President Obama to lower his ambitions for the next two years and begin sending out signals of his willingness—even eagerness—to compromise with Republicans on a range of issues.  It hasn’t happened.

Instead they’ve seen the president:

  1. take unilateral action to protect over 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation;
  2. call on Congress to give him new powers to wage war against the Islamic State;
  3. announce a major bilateral climate agreement with China to reduce the production of greenhouse gases;
  4. pledge $3 billion to a global fund to help poorer nations fight climate change;
  5. call on the FCC to preserve net neutrality;
  6. nominate as successor to the first black man to serve as attorney general (Eric Holder) the first black woman (Loretta Lynch) who would hold the post;
  7. request (and receive) the resignation of his (Republican) secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel; and
  8. deliver a characteristically calm, understanding and thoughtful statement last night in response to a St. Louis County grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

If Republicans and conservatives are surprised by the president’s behavior, they have only themselves to blame.  Beginning with the autobiography he published in 1995 as he prepared to launch his political career with a campaign for the Illinois state senate,  Barack Obama has been remarkably open about who he is and what kind of public figure he aims to be. Read more…

Morning Song – Thank You Friends

If the lovely and heartfelt “Thank You Friends” sounds like George Harrison meets The Byrds meets Stax Records, there’s a simple explanation:  it’s Big Star.

Thank you, friends
Wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you;
I’m so grateful
For all the things you helped me do.

Morning Song – Run Chicken Run

Link Wray was a foundational influence on generations of rockabilly, hard rock and punk rock guitarists.  Here’s his “Run Chicken Run”—a bit of advice applicable to all flightless fowls this week.

Morning Song – Stretch Out

There’s the old preachers’ story about the man who trusted completely in God to save him from any trouble that might come his way.  When the floodwaters started to rise, he turned away two rescue boats and a helicopter as neighbors and aid workers offered to save him.  The waters kept rising; he drowned and went to his heavenly reward.

Once there, he asked God, “Lord, I trusted in you and you alone.  Why didn’t you save me from the waters?

God replied, “My son, I sent you two boats and a helicopter.  What more did you want me to do?

That’s the kind of theology that undergirds the Institutional Radio Choir’s classic 1967 gospel hit, “Stretch Out”.  Salvation may be by grace alone, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to work at it.

When troubles come and storms begin to rise,
Hold on and learn to stretch out;
Oh keep on fasting, keep on believing,
Hold on and learn to stretch out.


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